Sunday, November 28, 2010

Difference Between Old School Staff and Kiddie Staff

I step inside a coworker's office.

Me (sits down): I sent you an email. Did you get it?
Kiddie Staff: (Checks email in front of me)
Old School Staff: Why don't you just tell me what it was about?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's Me Again Provider, Leaving a Message on Your VM

I'm going to be the message you hear on your voice mail every day. Until you call me back and let me know the status of my client's food stamps / make the referral for the specialist / call me back to discuss my client's housing situation. 

I've learned some tricks in my time. Being a pest is one way to get what you need in this field. Only takes five minutes of my time. I can do that. 

I don't go the daily call route in every situation, sure, but when I see the metaphorical "this will drag on" light go on while talking to a client I know what I need to do. At a time when I'm sitting in my office talking with a client on the phone and he says something like, "I've been going to public aid for the past month trying to sort out my food stamps and I brought the paperwork my case worker needed but my stamps still haven't started! My wife and I have no food at home."

Or I'm talking with a client who has Medicaid and realize that it'll be a battle to get him to see a specialist three weeks from now (if that) and that as he's having a tough medical condition and isn't able to sit at ER for the day, that calling the specialist scheduler once every two days is a good way to try and see if we can squeeze her earlier. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I'm doing it (advocating/annoying providers) for other people it's in some ways easier than doing it for myself.

Update (12/9/2010): Apparently waiting to hear back involves me hanging at my office during my lunch hour because those are the only times I hear back from a couple of you providers. Sneaky!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Challenge of Breadth of Case Management

Working with clients on a host of issues is exciting and daunting. Exciting to be working on tasks covering different areas, from legal to health to housing. True, much of it is more basic counseling -- I haven't suddenly turned into a doctor (even if a number of clients have little hesitation in sharing full details about their ailments) or another specialist. I do, however, have some background on a number of issues through training or experience. I'm familiar with the law to be able to counsel my client on basic courses of action to take when she has a maintenance concern that her landlord won't fix. As much of the job involves advocacy and referrals it helps to have some knowledge in my client's concern.

As part of this job I also become a resource genie. I know where to find medical resources for people who have no insurance, I know where clothes pantries are, or where you can find vouchers for certain furniture items. I know because I keep an eye out. I'm walking around and notice flyers advertising an upcoming workshop. Hmmm would clients or staff find it useful?... Let me grab that.  And I'll likely go to the workshop if I don't know much about the topic. I love training opportunities and enjoy learning for my clients and because I like to learn. 

Yet realizing the breadth of what our work as case managers at Empoder is at times daunting. I don't only work on finding a client housing or advising on a legal matter like other providers. I could potentially work with one client on several concerns. Add to that low income, perhaps mental illness or a child in the mix, and the fact that my caseload includes 35 other lower maintenance clients and awaaaaaaaaaaaaay we go. Over the past few years I've had a number of clients with multiple issues who became -- or still are -- intensive and demanding. 

I materialize my aspirations to become an octopus and get all the different tasks done. Unable to make multiple Anotolias I try and do that in my mind -- re-prioritizing my to do list throughout the day, plan, get a coworker on my team to help when he can, and plan to be surprised. 

Sure, having some set boundaries help and we do know what's expected of us and know what we typically help clients with. But it's not unusual to need to revisit these boundaries and to assess on an ongoing basis -- typically with more demanding clients -- what we're able to help with in the long term. Not to mention the duties as assigned clause. Some situations call on the case manager to take action when it seems no one else will take care of a problem a client is unable to deal with.*

In theory we're the middle person and no more. We help clients stay housed by providing emergency assistance, advocacy, and referrals. Yet due to the way our department is structured is that we often offer long term support -- the client is welcome to continue and receive case management services while she continues to live in one of the buildings we support. And if this client is willing to build a relationship with us and has ongoing challenge it's easier to see how we may become more deeply involved in a client's life.

* Possible reasons it's difficult to have a client's problem dealt with by a person who's not you -- lack of community (no family or friends), lack of other agencies in client's life, lack of funds by client.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Good to Be out in the Field

"Hi Anatolia!" A man's voice grabs me out of my daze of walking down the street during my lunch break.

The benefits of being out and about in the field during work hours, especially in the neighboring neighborhoods as many of my clients live near Empoder. The other day I bumped into a client I haven't seen in several months. He's one of about a dozen clients on my case load who doesn't have a phone which makes staying in touch difficult. "How are you doing?" He asked. I got a short update on how he was doing, then he said that he still wanted to change his primary physician, something he wanted to do last time we talked. We agreed he'll stop by to follow up with an appointment.

Bumping into clients is either a good way of reconnecting with a client who fell off the radar or find out that a less stable/follow through client is still around. 

On an amusing level it sometimes becomes a little cool boost. Check out all these people recognizing me on the streets and shouting hello at me. It reinforces a sense of community between me and my clients. I also sometimes see clients walking together who I know have met through our social events/workshops which makes me happy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Delhi to Dublin Band

I wanted to share music by this cool cool band: Delhi to Dublin. A Punjabi and Celtic mix tossed with a little electric electronic and occasional reggae.

For more music, visit their Myspace page.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Power an Object Gives Us, or Power that We Associate with it?

An article that touches on another topic that interests me: The relationship we have with certain objects. Specifically, our belief that they give us strength or good fortune.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't Ask Me What You Should Do

To then take the exact opposite action. Ba! I've realized that giving advice (be it to clients, friends, long distance boyfriends, etc) is like giving a gift (not the metaphor, a physical gift) -- you don't know what the person's gonna do with it once you hand it over.

And no, I know how case manager/client dynamic works, I know the route of discussing-options-until-client-comes-to-his-choice/solution. But if you, the client, are going to ask me for advice on certain situations I will say what I think without much discussion because in some situations there's little room to debate. There may be more room to discuss how to deal with a tenant's issue in getting maintenance issues fixed, for example. But take specific diet choices -- I know that eating three candy bars a day isn't healthy, and yes, I will bring up alternative healthy options. "It's your choice," I will emphasize, but I'll also emphasize possible drawbacks of consuming junk food. I'll entertain the possibility of continuing to eat copious amounts of junk food in a negative light.

What, people who care about my life style don't make suggestions to me all the time? And don't I ign-- take their words seriously and then decide whether it's advice that's convenient enough for me to follow? Though sometimes even if I don't take advice right away and do something different some of the advice sticks.

Gotta keep myself in check of the ease in which it is to look at another person and see what choices she's making that are harmful to herself and think, why doesn't she just do this? (Though it is hard to see a person take action that hurts himself)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Appreciating Limits of Your Control

I've been becoming more open minded about the well known but highly resisted truth that I don't have control over what other people do -- only myself -- what I do and how I react. Yes, for a lot of us it's something we understood early on, but though in the past I understood it on a superficial level I didn't appreciate how it's a liberating understanding. Interestingly this idea grew in my mind after hearing my supervisor saying that to a client and me discussing this same concept with another client. It's certainly one of those truths that are hard to accept and I realized I myself was acting hypercritically by not accepting it fully. 

It is a relief because it makes me think about what battles I want to fight, what realistically I can expect from myself and other people --  not just in terms of work, like appreciating clients' degree of responsibility over their actions but also in relationships in my personal life. It helps in letting some things go. Maybe my client won't choose to change her eating habits that include a lot of sugar and fat and I can encourage, even go shopping with her and discussing nutritious eating habits and products. Yet she has the final choice of the diet she wants to follow. I do what I can.